All of this discussion and excitement surrounding Mr. Oden recently has got me to thinking, what recognition can we justifiably expect for the big fella?
There has been prolonged discussion about the merits and shortcoming of Greg as an All-Star candidate and occasional references to his chances of winning MIP. However, there is one accolade I think Greg may quite possibly achieve that has so far escaped mention - making it on to one of the All-Defensive teams at the end of the season.
My reason for thinking this is twofold; You need big numbers to be in the All-Star game and to be MIP you need impressive increases in numbers. So far Greg only has great numbers and improvement in blocks (which is useful) and field-goal % (which seems to be of negligible use in gaining recognition). We all know how much Greg has improved but to date his points and rebounds have only increase by 2.4 and 1.4 respectively. We also know that this has been due to limited minutes but do you think fans or even coaches will view this the same way when they vote for these high profile honours?
By contrast, Greg fills many of the necessary requirement for being an All-Defensive player. Again, Greg's vast improvement and standing as one of the leagues leading shotblockers help his case but this is hardly the only factor in his favour. He is most often referred to as a defensive player by the media and coaches, so now that his defensive prowess is emerging there is a decent chance it could be represented in the All-Defensive team votes. Articles that mention Greg growing into the role of a defensive leader for the Blazers should also be important as this seems to factor into the coaches vote. If Greg maintains his blocking numbers, continues to shut down the paint for the Blazers, particularly in the 4th, and becomes a more vocal and visible leader on D, there is every chance he could make the All-Defensive 2nd team.
Another factor in Greg's favour is that there are also a couple of aging players who have been staples on the All-Defensive team over the past decade but who might not warrant selection this year (based on play to date - extrapolation necessary!). The first is Marcus Camby, who has appeared on 4 All-Defensive teams this decade and won DPOY in 06-07 but has been both traditional stats (blocks, rebounds) and advanced measures (defensive rating, defensive win shares) decline noticeably since their peak a few years ago. He did not gain selection last season and is unlikely to find his way back this year. Second is Tim Duncan, the all time leader in selections to the All-Defensive teams, who has been noticeably slower and less able to defend in the post due to his age and new, lighter physique this year. Duncan's selections have never really been based on spectacular stats but rather on the fact that he was probably the most intelligent and fundamentally sound defender in the league over the past decade. As these awards tend to trail the reality of a players decline by a couple of years, particularly when it comes to superstars, it is likely that Duncan still will gain more votes than Greg this season. If Oden continues his steady rise to the point of becoming a consistently dominant defensive player however, coaches would have little choice but to vote him in regardless of how loyal they may be to Duncan.
In summary, I think it is clear that Greg numbers, when taken at face value, will not get him selection into the All-Star team or see him win MIP - unless games like the 24/12/2 he put up against Chicago become more common. Conversely, His improved defensive stats as well as his growing reputation as a defensive player could see him gain entry into one of the All-Defensive squads at seasons end. While there is no requirement for there to be two centers on the 1st and 2nd teams, historical results (last year excluded) illustrate that this is likely. Dwight and KG will gain 1st team honours on reputation alone while Duncan will probably, but not definitely, get into the 2nd team again for the same reason. After that, I see no better candidate for inclusion into the 2nd team than our own Greg Oden.
So what do YOU think?